insight magazine

Practice Perspectives | Winter 2020

Don’t Just Survive: Thrive

2021 is your year to stop barely getting by and instead invest in a strategy for profitable CPA firm growth.
Art Kuesel President, Kuesel Consulting

The word “survival” carries the connotation of meager rations, close calls, adverse conditions, and a fight to simply exist—and for many CPA firm leaders, survival may have been the theme for 2020. But will that theme carry into 2021? 2020 brought so many surprises that many of us have been stuck in a cycle of reacting rather than making proactive decisions. But we’ve learned some lessons from a tough year, and now we should implement those lessons and plan for more than just getting by: It’s time to build a plan to thrive in 2021.

Here are three strategies to point you in the right direction.

A note before we start: I do not define thriving as cost-cutting your way to profitability. I know you accountants possess the skills to watch the bottom line closely—this will be an exercise in growing the top line, while making sure that each strategy contributes to overall profitable growth.


You may feel like you’re struggling to meet current clients’ needs, let alone court and serve new business. One way to steer your firm toward profitable growth is to take the approach of quality over quantity. Your new clients should come in at a higher minimum, have the capability of buying multiple services, and see a relationship with your firm as a true partnership. Once you learn how to attract and retain better clients, this trajectory will only accelerate as your high-value clients spread the word.


Nobody wants a repeat of 2020’s busy season—maybe the longest and most stressful that we’ve ever experienced. Our kneejerk reaction to the pure unpredictability of the pandemic was often to become a leaner organization, trimming the fat wherever possible. Here’s the problem with that approach: If you remain too lean for too long, you will burn out employees, lose great talent, and end up worse off than before. You can’t make incredible gains on meager rations. I’ve advised my clients to staff up to the best of their ability, hiring more employees and interns than in previous years, even in the midst of uncertainty. The worst-case scenario? You’ll have extra hours available to serve current and new clients, while keeping workloads from hitting punishing levels.


Business owners have been swamped by a wave of urgent, life-or-death business decisions since March and many less urgent decisions and plans have been put on the back burner. Sadly, changing accounting firms does not usually qualify as urgent, so you may be seeing limited opportunities for new business. But what if you can offer unique answers to their urgent questions? Firms that think outside the box and mold their services to bring new value and must-have solutions will find new clients come clamoring. To create these solutions, think about your current clients. What pandemic-specific services have they snapped up? What is their most pressing concern, and how can you help with it? The answers to these questions can serve as a guide as to what your prospective clients might also want from you.

These are just a few ideas to kickstart your own plan. 2021 could be a great year to formally expand your consulting and service offerings, complete a merger, or hire some great talent to boost your bench. Go beyond cost-cutting and make some strategic bets on your future. We’ve learned so much in the past year: It’s time to apply this new knowledge to push past mere survival and chart a course to thrive in 2021!

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